This marks the third version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine I have reviewed in as many work days. Last week, the review for the Uncaged Edition on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC went live and I dug the violent combat and feeling of actually being Wolverine. Earlier today, the review for Wolverine Wii and PlayStation 2 were published and I ripped them for being uber-generic and filled with flaws.
On the Wolvie awesomeness scale, the PSP version of X-Men Origins falls somewhere between the good game the Uncaged Edition was and the poor game the other outing happens to be. Sadly, this portable title falls on the Wii/PS2 side of things.
At first glance, Origins on the PSP reminded me a lot of Spider-Man: Web of Shadows -- Amazing Allies edition because of its cartoon-esque art style and super-easy combat. Sadly, the humor and ingenuity that prospered in Spider-Man is nowhere to be found in this Wolverine title. Here, you're just tossed behind the claws of Wolverine and let loose on a bunch of levels that might or might not have been in the movie. We start things off in the Far East, jump to Africa and so on. See, in this version, Col. Stryker is helping erase Wolverine's memory. So, Weapon X is strapped into a chair and is getting zapped with electricity every now and again. When he gets zapped, he has a flashback to these missions and events, you play and then we're back to the chair.
Hit X, bub.
Origins plays out like you'd expect. The face buttons are your attacks, jump and so on. As you brawl, you'll build up a Rage meter, which you can then use for a number of suped-up attacks. When the Rage meter is full, you activate it via the D-Pad and get to move in slow-motion and take most people out in one hit while being invulnerable. With that, you now know everything you need to know about combat. You'll take these simple moves into battle and beat the hell out of everyone in your sight. It's repetitive and not that exciting, but it's not quite annoying, either. It's just there.
Of course, you're Wolverine in this game so the claws are a huge part of your attack. However, they never feel all that powerful. Every now and again, the Circle button will pop up over a baddie's head, you'll hit it and Wolvie will rush in for the attack. He'll burry his blades in the foes chest, but if the bad guy's health isn't low enough, the attack doesn't kill him. Same thing with when you leap onto a fallen guy and beat in his face -- it's not a guaranteed kill. Thankfully, there is an instant kill option. When Triangle pops up above an enemy, Wolverine can lift the bad guy up and stab him to death. Sadly, these chances are very, very rare.
Every level will start off with a Primary Objective such as reaching a certain area and stopping a bad guy, but there will also be Secondary Objectives like getting out of a level without dying and defeating three ninjas before they can call for help. These are all well and good, but the levels still come down to killing everyone in a room to open the next door to dodge lasers and such.
Like the lackluster Wolverine games before it, Origins comes up with a couple of BS reasons for why Logan's healing factor won't work at certain points. If you've been poisoned, you can't heal. If you're on fire, you can't heal. Of course, these weaknesses mean that you're surrounded by fire and poison a lot. It's not a devastating thing and you can still mash through it with relative ease, but the limitations prevent me from getting into the character of Wolverine.
On top of that, the PSP is the only Wolverine tie-in I've played this week where you don't get to choose how to customize the character. When you complete a level and a Primary Objective, you get your health, damage, or healing factor boost. Complete a Secondary Objective and you'll unlock a bonus item like artwork, movies, or even Wolvie costumes. Those carrots on a stick are nice, but not being able to choose how I upgrade Wolverine kind of sucks. I'd prefer to pour the attributes into the categories I want instead of the game doing it for me.
Adding to my ho-hum attitude on Origins is the fact that the visuals don't deliver. Wolverine looks like a good cartoon character, but the environments are really generic (go to a cave, warehouse, etc.) and everything is really dark. I was playing on a PSP-3000 with the system brightness cranked (there is no in-game option), and I was having trouble navigating certain areas. Of course, this was exacerbated by the lack of camera control. The view is set and you have to deal with it.
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